Celebrating cultural diversity

RCC students were proud to represent their home countries – and practice their English skills – at a pair of World Day events held this spring at the Riverside and Redwood campuses.

The two campus events, held May 21 and 22, were spearheaded by RCC Latino Outreach & Recruitment in partnership with the Adult Basic Skills department, Associated Student Government and the RVC Latino Club.

Angelica Mendoza, transition specialist for Latino Outreach & Recruitment, said the department wanted to host an event that would encourage the campus community to learn about and celebrate the different cultures that make our college unique. The events were coordinated to align with the United Nations’ World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development on May 21.

More than 100 visitors attended the RCC events. Participants received a passport to “travel around the world” and vote for their favorite display. At the Riverside Campus, five countries were represented: Colombia, Germany, Guatemala, Mexico and Venezuela. Students at Redwood Campus hosted tables for Armenia, China, Colombia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand.

The student ambassadors exhibited traditional clothing, crafts and foods and helped participants learn about their country with educational games. Taiwan was voted best country at the Redwood Campus, and Mexico was the crowd favorite at the Riverside Campus.

Adult Basic Skills instructor Kristi Kowalski said the students in her English Language Acquisition (ESL/ELA) class were excited about the opportunity to participate in the event. While cultural diversity is the norm for ESL/ELA classes, Kowalski said her spring class at the Redwood Campus was a standout.

“Students in my small class of 15 represent 10 countries and seven languages,” she said. “They enthusiastically embraced the idea of presenting about their home countries to the broader RCC community.”

In class, the students practiced conversation, gathered information, created display boards, anticipated questions and thoughtfully considered what students and staff at RCC might be interested in learning.

“They did a fantastic job!” Kowalski said. ” It was a joy to see the students share their expert knowledge with the large group of RCC students, faculty and staff who visited the student center on World Day.  It was no small feat for these learners to speak English for two-plus hours nonstop, sharing information about their native countries and cultures, and answering questions from native English speakers.”

Kowalski shared comments from students who participated in the event: 

“I felt very happy to talk about my country in front of American citizens and others. It was a wonderful experience for me. I was very emotional when I saw the people very interested in my presentation, and I liked how they asked me about my country!” – Vicky, Peru

“I had a wonderful day talking about my country, and I was proud to talk about it because most people do not know about Armenia. I had amazing English practice.” – Marine, Armenia

“It is a pleasure to work with these incredible, dedicated students and I am so proud of all the hard work they did for their World Day presentations,” Kowalski said. “World Day provided an excellent platform to showcase the important service the Adult Basic Skills ESL/ELA program provides to our community, as well as the richness of diversity the students bring to the Redwood Campus!”

Mendoza said Latino Outreach plans to host the event again next year.